October 14, 2012
Brady, Defense Fail Patriots In Second Half
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
SEATTLE -- The Patriots simply cannot play defense, and Tom Brady reached his pitch limit.
At least the Yankees lost again.
Other than that, it was a display of complete exasperation at Century Link Field in rainy Seattle on Sunday. Russell Wilson torched the pitiful Patriot secondary for a 46-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Rice for what turned out to be the winning score. Brady had 1:18 and no timeouts to respond, but what happened in Super Bowl XXXVI was a distant memory as the Patriots went three and out, and the Seahawks had a 24-23 win. The Patriots blew a 23-10 lead in the fourth quarter, with Brady suffering through a rare subpar performance and the defense still in need of how to play pass defense.
The game was tremendous redemption for Seattle head coach Pete Carroll, who preceded Bill Belichick as Patriot head coach and was facing his old team for the first time since being fired after the 1999 season. Carroll had two playoff teams in his three seasons as Patriot head coach, but was badly undermined by then-GM Bobby Grier and was exposed as a coach who was far too soft on his players. Carroll enjoyed a terrific stint at USC until impending sanctions forced him to step down, and his return to the NFL, though initially looked upon with scorn from those who believe that he is nothing more than a defensive coordinator at the NFL level, has been somewhat successful with a playoff win over New Orleans a few years back as his NFL high water mark.
It must be made clear that it was not only the defense that cost the Patriots the game. Most Patriot fans might not have been too upset with that late touchdown catch by Rice, who blew by two rookie safeties (Nate Ebner, Tavon Wilson) to haul in the pass. The catch was made with 1:18 left in the game, and everyone assumed Brady would merely lead the team back with ease by merely being Brady, as long as Stephen Gostkowski was over the yips from his miss against Arizona. But on first down at the 20, he led Brandon Lloyd too far on the right side and he made a diving catch out of bounds. On second down, he was sacked literally by stumbling over Dan Connally, all the while the Patriots being called for illegal motion. On third down, he found Aaron Hernandez in the left flat but the ball zipped right through his hands. On fourth down, he hit Wes Welker for 15 yards, but he needed 17 and the game was over as Bobby Wagner clobbered him two yards short.
A look at the quarterback numbers paints a shocking picture of how this game went, and made the final result more credible. Brady set personal highs in completions and attempts with 36 of 58 passing for 395 yards and two touchdowns. But he had two interceptions, one of them in the end zone, and his passer rating was 79.3. Wilson, on the other hand, was 16 of 27 for 293 yards, three touchdowns, and a passer rating of 133.7. Wilson averaged nearly four more yards per pass play than Brady did, hitting just under ten yards per pass completion.
Bad play calling also helped to cost the Patriots the win. At the end of the first half, the Patriots were the benefactors of a muffed punt snap by punter Jon Ryan. Taking over at the Seattle 24 with 40 seconds left in the half and two timeouts, the Patriots let 21 seconds run off after a 15-yard pass to Welker. It came down to third down and goal at the Seattle 3-yard line with six seconds left. The situation screamed for a field goal attempt which would have put the Patriots up 20-10 going into intermission. But the Patriots got greedy and tried to strike quick with a touchdown. Brady took the snap and fired quickly over the middle to no one. Referee Clete Blakeman ruled intentional grounding on Brady, which necessitated a 10-second runoff and ended the half without even a field goal attempt. Those lost three points wound up being the difference in the game.
Then in the fourth quarter, up 23-17 with the ball and the ball on their own 41 with 3:02 left, the Patriots decided to make Seattle burn all their timeouts. They ran Stevan Ridley for two one-yard runs and Carroll indeed burned his first two timeouts. Then the Patriots had a decision, to either try and pass for a first down or simply run and make Seattle empty their timeout quiver. They opted for a pass, but Brady tried to hit Deion Branch on a slant route and underthrew the ball, stopping the clock and allowing Seattle to save a timeout and also have the two-minute warning. A simple screen pass, quick or bubble, would have been much better as long as it was completed and did not go out of bounds. Instead, the worst possible result happened other than a turnover.
What to do about the Patriot secondary is daunting. Kyle Arrington was torched by Doug Baldwin for two passes of 72 yards total in the first quarter. Their coverage technique is awful, as most of the time the DBs don't even turn around to try and play the ball as it approaches the receiver. Only Wilson shows any promise, and he was burned along with Ebner on the deciding touchdown. But there is absolutely no ability out there to close on the ball, lay sticks on the receivers, play zone with any level of proficiency, or understand what kind of schema is being employed out there. At some point, talent has to be there, and it simply isn't.
If there were any positives, neither rushing attack could get untracked, which means that the Patriots did a nice job of shutting down Marshawn Lynch, the former Buffalo Bill. Lynch had only 41 yards and a 2.7 yard average. But Ridley was shut down also, averaging only 2.1 yards per carry.
Carroll's main hallmark during his NFL years has been the fact that he is an outstanding defensive mind, and did bring the league's top defense into the game. Brady was able to drop 395 passing yards on that defense, but overall the future Hall of Fame quarterback had his worst game in about two years. The two interceptions were both completely on Brady, a bad throw to Branch on a deep right pattern which was picked off by Richard Sherman in the third quarter, then he tried to force an ill-advised throw to Welker near the goal line and Earl Thomas picked it off in the end zone. While Carroll really didn't shut the Patriots down, he did force Brady into a bad game and dealt with the running game very effectively. Carroll's Patriots in 1997 had one of the best one-season defenses in team history largely with Bill Parcells guys, but Carroll truly knows defense if not how to manage personnel as a head coach with any sustained success.
This was a regrettable defeat, which drops the Patriots into a four-way tie with all their division brothers at 3-3. It is literally a new season for the AFC East, and the Patriots literally start all over at home with the Jets in town. The Patriots will have a scoring-challenged Jet team come to town just having scored 35 on the Colts on Sunday, so the Jets have temporarily found their way back into the end zone. Mark Sanchez or Tim Tebow will find a way to navigate their way through this awful Patriot secondary, and Patriot Nation may be in for a long rest of the season unless something is done about pass coverage and soon.
OK, enough. Yup, the Yankees are down 2-0 and get to face Justin Verlander in Detroit on Tuesday. Smile, everyone.
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